“Welcome to my blog! If you would like any info about the radio documentary “This Weapon Has Heart” on the Honduran community radio movement or on my musical project autococoon, email kiteswimming(((at)))riseup(((dot)))net or visit http://www.autococoon.bandcamp.com for audio clips and songs!”—
So I work with an au’some radio station here in Seattle called Hollow Earth Radio (H.E.R.). She lives in a public space next to 20/20 Cycle (20th & Union) in the Central District. She’s an internet station you can listen to from anywhere in the world through the center of the earth. H.E.R. is a participatory community radio station, meaning you can call us and tell us your paranormal experiences and weird dreams over the air, you can come to the space for all-ages shows, you can volunteer with us and make H.E.R. even au’somer. The show I co-host is OlympiYEAH — all Olympiacentric music and interviews from Olympia, WA.
"This Weapon Has Heart" Greyhound Tour, September 2011
From Philadelphia to Olympia, in a large ~ shape across the U.S., I will be traveling via Greyhound buses to promote the audio documentary “This Weapon Has Heart,” or “Este Arma Tiene Corazón,” about Honduran community radio. During this tour, I will be playing electro-acoustic music as well as organizing with community radio networks. Matt Fu of 1985 will be joining me and he has the voice of an angel.
THIS WEAPON HAS HEART ♥ ESTE ARMA TIENE CORAZÔN
I recently returned from Honduras after a 10-week stay in Central America documenting the power that community radio holds to counter state repression tactics. Twelve extremely rich and powerful families run the country, with a menacing grip on the Honduran government, military, economy, and society. Honduran peasant families are facing severe threats to their lives and livelihoods from thousands of mining, tourism, agriculture, and hydroelectric energy megaprojects implemented by multinational corporations in cahoots with the Honduran government. This violence has increased dramatically since the June 28, 2009 military coup d’êtat and has not improved since the reintegration of the country into the Organization of American States on June 1 of this year.
At almost every one of the six community radio stations that I visited, members told me that RADIO IS THE WEAPON OF CHOICE to fight against the police, paramilitaries, military forces, and armies of private security guards employed by thieving landlords, all funded by Honduran and North American taxpayers, that regularly beat, detain, threaten, torture, and kill Honduran activists. Targeted groups include students, teachers, artists, peasants, union leaders, members of LGBTQI communities, and Jesuit priests. Honduran journalists and social communicators working with alternative radio, television, and internet media are also severely harassed daily for their exercise of the right to free speech.
Communities have achieved an incredible level of non-violent resistance to the repression, especially since the coup, which sparked a broad public awakening. Resistance-related workshops and conferences on the national, municipal, and local level are constantly taking place. One widely used and very valuable tool organizations have been launching in the past two decades, with a notable surge in stations since the coup, is community radio.
During this tour I would love to share what I experienced with activists nationwide and discuss actions we can take, such as forming local anti-militarization campaigns, or starting our own community radio station, to pressure the U.S. government to drain military funding to Honduras and end human rights abuses in Central America.
I will be promoting my audio documentary THIS WEAPON HAS HEART, which will be 1-2 hours in length, like a feature film, and will feature interviews and music from Honduran resistance groups. I’ll be making at least 3 versions, one in Spanish, one in English, and one crafted specifically for a Honduran audience. The doc is set to broadcast on at least 20 radio stations internationally.
I’ll also be performing my solo music project, autococoon, on guitar and vocals. These songs are complex musically, mostly fingerpicked, and change time signatures frequently. The lyrics are intricate, with political resistance themes and poetry about marine biology and love.
My partner Matt of the band 1985 will also be performing songs he calls from beyond with his beautiful voice, on guitar and vocals. 1985 songs often have social, political and cultural bearings, usually swimming in colorful poetics and quasi-spiritual ruminations.
Reach out if you would like us to come to your town!! The dates below are flexible. If you know about community radio stations that may be interested in syndicating “This Weapon Has Heart,” please email me: email@example.com !
THIS WEAPON HAS HEART TOUR DATES
Aug 29 Cincinnati, OH: Daniels Pub
Aug 30 Asheville, NC: Firestorm Café w/ the Neapolitan Children
Aug 30 Asheville, NC: The Get Down w/ I Make the Young & Octopus and Owl
Aug 31 Greensboro, NC: Science House w/ Jordan Michael, Sailing Day, Kieran Anderson, & Stay Classy
U.S. imperialism is alive and well, this much we know. Here in Honduras, rifle-bearing soldiers and cops, or perhaps police dressed in military garb, or perhaps private security guards borrowing police uniforms – it’s never easy to tell – are vigilant at grocery stores, Dunkin Donuts, and banks, as well as rural communities. Where do these armed forces get their funding? You guessed it, your wallet.
Of all security funds pouring into Central America from Washington, 52% go to Honduras’ highly corrupt and repressive post-coup military outfit. Since the military coup d’etat on June 28, 2009, which was condoned and forgotten by the U.S. government, over 400 Hondurans have been targeted and killed in acts of state repression, whether for violating curfew, for being a feminist, or for working in alternative media. Thousands more have been detained, wounded, and tortured, and countless Hondurans are harassed daily specifically for their political views and actions.
Land use is the main struggle in this country. Peasants, or campesinos, are fighting for their right to land for subsistence farming. Thirty percent of the land in Honduras was recently promised to foreign mining corporations. Hydroelectric dams, coastal tourism projects, and monoculture megaprojects are all threats to Honduran campesinos. As indigenous, Garifuna (communities of African descent), and campesino resistance movements gain momentum, repression against them also grows stronger.
Honduras was reintegrated into the Organization of American States on June 1, 2011, after the celebrated return of ousted president Manuel Zelaya Rosales. The National Front of Popular Resistance, or FNRP, welcomed his return with the largest gathering in Honduran history but find that the reintegration of the country into the OAS is a huge step back for the resistance. The FNRP had proposed 4 requirements for reintegration – Zelaya’s return, along with all other exiles; the recognition of the FNRP as a political party; the improvement of the human rights situation in the country; and a participative national assembly for a new constitution. None of these requirements have been fulfilled, and of these four, only one has even been touched. Just a handful of exiles have returned to the country, one of which, Enrique Flores Lanza, is under house arrest.
Clearly human rights violations in Honduras continue in force, the justice system is worse than broken, and democracy is no more than a fanciful dream or a word thrown around for diplomacy’s sake. Twelve families run the country. The oligarchy owns a vast proportion of fertile land, controls legislation, business, the military, and all other state institutions. One example of this twisted web is that former president Carlos Flores Facussé, the nephew of the richest man in Honduras, landlord Miguel Facussé, founded La Tribuna, the largest newspaper in Honduras, and his daughter Lizzy Flores is the country’s new United Nations ambassador.
Facussé’s scope is enormous. He fits the image of a classic feudalistic colonial king. He controls an army of 200 private security guards, who are ruthless in their oppression of campesinos who live on his illegally claimed territory. Facussé bought up the hill of Zacate Grande little by little from families who had worked their land for generations, both through threatening them and by offering more and more money until the campesinos sold their ancestral land. The hill is now home to this oligarch’s private hunting grounds, to which he has imported exotic animals such as white deer for the sole purpose of the sport of killing.
Campesinos across the country are organizing fervently against the reign of Facussé and several other underhanded landlords. The Aguán valley, located in northern Honduras, is an incredibly militarized region where curfew is still in place in some regions. This valley is extraordinarily fertile, attracting foreign investors in African palm cultivation for export as biodiesel and palm oil. Some farming communities have been displaced for over a decade, migrating from one palm plantation occupation to the next in violent eviction processes. The author was present during an attempted eviction of a community from the land it had been holding for 11 years.
Scorched earth in Rigores, Cortez, Honduras
On July 1, 2011, a group of 18 U.S. and Canadian citizens traveling as human rights delegates with Alliance for Global Justice and Rights Action arrived to the community of Rigores, as a response to an alert that police were scheduled to evict these campesinos from their land. Upon arriving, delegates learned that about 120 families had already been evicted on Sunday, June 26 and that the police were on their way to remove them from the community center in which they were taking refuge so that the campesinos would not return to the land where their homes had stood a week earlier.
Shortly after the delegates arrived, around 9am, they received word that the police were approaching Rigores via a side street, burning houses along the way. The delegation traveled along with community members to the site and stood in a line facing the police, who were slowly approaching. Some took position by hiding behind vegetation. One sniper hid behind a tree throughout the encounter. This highly militant aspect contrasted with the respectful attitude presented by these heavily armed men. Community leaders, local human rights activists and delegates spoke to the police chief for about 45 minutes about the legality of the eviction. When asked for the eviction order, the chief presented a document of complaint that cited an event involving ”heavily armed campesinos” which had supposedly occurred on June 30th, though it was signed by a judge on June 11th. No eviction order was presented. After about three hours the police finally left; however, the risk that they could return remains.
The delegation members collected testimony from the campesinos about the violence perpetrated by police forces on June 26th. One woman’s account detailed the brutality with which the police tore these campesinos away from their land. The police entered her home with guns drawn and pointed menacingly at her family members. They pulled a mattress out from under her four small children, who rolled onto the floor, treated ”like little rats.” A cop asked for her identification card and promptly burned it. These police, including a special forces COBRA unit, known for decades of human rights violations, poured gasoline around her house and set it on fire, leaving no time to collect any belongings. After this violent process, several women either gave birth or miscarried due to the physical and emotional stress of these events.
Animals such as dogs, cats, and chickens were set on fire or left to burn. Acres of community corn fields were scorched. These shameless police forces reportedly walked through the orange tree fields cutting branches off the plants and eating the fruit. They also confiscated a pig and other livestock, as well as a tractor given to the community by ALBA, the Latin American trade alliance. The brutality with which this eviction was carried out is clearly an illegal violation of human rights as part of the heavily escalated violence that still penetrates Honduran police and military forces. The United States government is pouring taxpayer dollars into this militarization, as it has been doing in Honduras for decades. One example of this horrible waste of money is the U.S. air force base of Palmerola.
Protest at Palmerola air base
On the morning of June 28th, around 200 people gathered a few miles away from the entrance to Palmerola Air Base, which is located in Honduras but used by the United States Air Force. The marchers proceeded towards the main gate to denounce the US’s military presence and its role in the overthrow of Honduras’ democratically elected government on June 28th, 2009. The plane that sent Honduras’ president Manuel Zelaya into exile on that day flew from the capital, Tegucigalpa, to Palmerola before continuing in the opposite direction to Costa Rica.
The protest was organized by COPINH, the Civic Counsel of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, which works to oppose multinational mining, agricultural, tourism, and hydroelectric energy projects. These projects, which have been fast-tracked under the post-coup government, work the current system to cheat Garifuna, Lenca, and other Honduran people out of their farms and land.
Also attending the march were about 25 citizens of the United States, who were present to monitor police behavior, to support COPINH’s anti-exploitation struggle, and to protest the misuse of taxpayer money on militarization in Honduras. The march followed a 2-day anti-militarization conference in La Esparanza, Honduras, with the participation of delegates from Brazil, Costa Rica, Canada, the U.S., El Salvador, and Nicaragua, to name a few.
Traffic on the highway was blocked for over two hours. At one point, a young Honduran activist got too close to the wall of the air base, bearing a large stencil and a can of spraypaint, and a police officer (dressed in military garb) pulled him to the ground in a stranglehold. As other marchers, including an elderly Lenca woman, approached the scene, the police pointed rifles at them menacingly. Without warning, at least 2 tear gas canisters were fired and the marchers fled down a nearby street, then promptly continued the march. No one was detained or severely injured, although some emerged with bruises and cuts sustained from baton strikes.
Upon reaching Palmerola’s main gate, there was a rally in the driveway in which the people chanted, “Yankee trash out of Honduras!” and “More food, zero weapons!” The crowd also remembered the hundreds of activists that were shot and killed by the police in the 2 years since the coup, chanting, “Present with us today, tomorrow, and always, they keep on living through our struggle!”
A call to action
The attitude of the Obama Administration towards the Honduran government is one of acceptance and encouragement. U.S. citizens have, albeit limited, power to influence representatives to cut the flow of money into the hands of the corrupt and violent Honduran oligarchy. The cash set for militarization in Honduras would much better serve the public interest paying for education and healthcare domestically.
The transnational economic and military forces that are violently oppressing the creative and youthful resistance in Honduras are the sames forces which are working against the personal and collective freedoms of North Americans. There are thousands of ways in which we can each fight these giants, and of course, together we are stronger. To debilitate the Honduran oligarchy, international and Honduran activists are needed in both countries. One very needed role for international activists is that of accompanier, or human rights observer. Local organizations are calling for Spanish-speaking activists to join long-term international accompaniment teams here which monitor human rights violations and live in communities in which militarization is escalating, such as Zacate Grande and in the Aguán valley. International accompaniment allows local organizers to continue with their work with a highly decreased risk of state violence.
Documentary to be made about radio, for radio broadcast
(LA TRADUCCIÔN A ESPAÑOL ESTÂ AL FONDO)
Hope you are well! This is Caitlin Payne Roberts writing to you from the community radio station La Voz de Zacate Grande, located in Puerto Grande, a town on the peninsula (former island) of Zacate Grande in the Gulf of Fonseca, which is on the Pacific coast of Honduras. The communities that have lived here for generations have been fighting the richest man in Honduras, Miguel Facussé, for at least 20 years in a land struggle.
La Voz de Zacate Grande empowers the island-wide popular resistance movement through providing a participative, creative alternative media channel to denounce local, national and international human rights violations as well as play music relevant to the people who live here. This particular station is run by young people, the majority under 21. There is even a local band: La Alegria del Sur (the happiness of the south) with a 13-year-old singer, who I had the privilege of jamming with on Sunday. It’s going to be really hard to leave.
I’m producing an audio documentary about Honduran community radio. It will be about an hour or two long, just like a feature film, and made up of resistance music and interviews with radio folks. If you know of a radio station anywhere in the world that would be interested in syndicating this program, please send me their contact information. I’ll be making 3 versions: one in Spanish, one in English, and one made specifically for an Honduran audience. Since we are in this global fight against transnational powers, I am open to collaborating to create more versions in other languages (i.e., French, for all you Canadian activists who are organizing against Canadian mining and tourism megaprojects in Central America).
Since I arrived to Honduras a month ago, I’ve visited the following community radio stations: - Faluma Bimetu, located on the communal Garifuna lands of Triunfo de la Cruz on the north coast, operated by OFRANEH, the Fraternal Organization of Blacks in Honduras. This radio was burnt down in January of 2010 by police forces due to its denouncements of the coup d’etat, and began transmitting again a month later with international funds. 70% of its programming is in the Garifuna language. Faluma Bimetu translates to Coco Dulce in Spanish, or Sweet Coconut. - Guara Jambala, in the western mountain town of La Esperanza, launched by COPINH, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations in Honduras. Guara Jambala fights to inform the public about the ugly face of impending hydroelectric energy projects, which commercial media tends to applaud. - La Voz Lenca, another COPINH project, perched atop a lush rural hill in Concordia de la Cruz, three hours on dirt roads west of her sister radio Guara Jambala. This radio plays an important role in a community without electricity since people can use the radio as a form of direct communication between family members and friends by calling the radio and announcing a meeting place on the air. - Radio Orquídea, in the Bajo Aguán valley, run by MCA, the Campesino Movement of the Aguán. This radio is located in the most militarized region in the country and represents the voice of the people who are up against a handful of very powerful African palm plantation owners who are irrigating their crops with campesino blood and tears. - Estrella, in Trujillo, in a Garifuna community near the mouth of the Aguán river, also operated by OFRANEH. The community surrounding Estrella is up against a large Canadian tourism project that is threatening the inhabitants of communally owned land and buying it illegally, parcel by parcel. - La Voz de Zacate Grande, built on the ancestral soil of the community of Puerto Grande, managed by ADEPZA, the Association for the Development of Zacate Grande. Miguel Facussé claims to own the land these families live on and people here experience constant threats of eviction. ADEPZA wants to develop a sustainable tourism project so that they can grow more food for their families; however, the majority of the beaches are illegally in the hands of Facussé for personal use.
I also interviewed representatives from Radio Gualcho, a community radio in Tegucigalpa, and Radio Progreso, a commercial radio in El Progreso that runs programming pertaining to the resistance movements. I chose to focus on just community radio instead of expand the scope of the project to cover Radio Progreso, Radio Uno, and Radio Globo, which are anti-coup commercial stations that are vital to urban organizing communities. Staff from these stations are also severely harassed for their leftist programming. One difference between these commercial stations and community radio is that the latter focuses less on politics and more on popular struggles for land and liberty.
What these community radios have in common is that they are powerful tools to communicate within communities of resistance. At almost every station I have visited, members have told me the radio is the weapon of choice to fight against paramilitaries, police, armies of private security guards employed by thieving landlords, and military forces funded by Honduran and North American taxpayers.
More than anything I have learned how constant resistance needs to be in order to effect change. The frequency with which organizations meet here is unbelievable – people are constantly discussing strategy, doing outreach, and mobilizing, even in the face of poverty, working for a brighter future.
In a week I will return to my hometown in Pennsylvania to edit the over 50 hours of interviews plus local music I’ve collected in Honduras. In early September I’ll be touring back to the northwest for two weeks with a completed audio documentary about the people I’ve met here and the fight for free speech. I’ll be sharing what I have learned about Honduran community radio and the forces that work against it, and I’m bringing my guitar. Let me know if you want me to stop by your town!
In the early part of this week, I spent 3 nights in Triunfo de la Cruz (Triumph of the Cross), a Garifuna community near Tela on the north coast of Honduras. There are 5 radio stations on in Garifuna communities on the north coast, and the one in Triunfo was the first. It´s called Faluma Bimetu in Garifuna, or Coco Dulce in Spanish, or Sweet Coconut in English. The station is tiny, with a production room and a broadcasting room, and the transmitter in the backyard. Directly after the coup, the station was instrumental in unifying Triunfo against the coup government and sharing present-tense information, for instance, about the violence perpetrated against protesters. The radio station was burned to the ground a year ago and built back up within a month due to the outpouring of support from all sides. Faluma Bimetu and its volunteers are still facing strong threats at all times.
The bus ride along the coast was just teeming with african palm plantations, the majority owned by landlord Miguel Facussè. These trees get huge. It was surreal to drive through hundreds of miles of these trees, which are essentially large tree ferns; it felt like a manufactured forest. Facussè is in a longstanding complicated land dispute; he bought acres and acres of coastal Honduran land from a US citizen who bought them illegally. He continues to buy these lands without first consulting the peasants who live on the lands. His representatives show up on subsistence farms and kick out the people whose families had lived there for generations. Often, as is happening now in the Aguàn valley, peasants revolt and “occupy” the land that rightfully belongs to them. Since the coup d`etat 2 years ago, violence against peasants is increasing dramatically due to a more comfortable political climate for those who desire to eliminate any obstacles that stand in the way of profit, including human beings. Just a couple of weeks ago, a farmer disappeared from his cattle farm neighboring an african palm plantation. A trail of blood led from the spot where he was tending his cattle into the plantation.
In 1993, a business from San Pedro Sula bought parts of the communally owned land of Triunfo de la Cruz to develop “ecotourism.” Their plan is to turn Triunfo de la Cruz, a peaceful fishing village, into the Cancún of Honduras, with megahotels, which are not too conducive to the community´s enjoyment of life. These projects would also consume a large percentage of the community´s water and land resources.
Another issue the community is facing is the Natural Resources department of Honduras. Two years ago, an armed batallion of 13 soldiers was sent to stop fishermen from fishing, on the pretext of violating fishing codes. The soldiers opened fire on the fishermen, killing one and wounding others. Here is an excellent article on Garifuna history and current events (note: I was able to meet with the very same gentleman this journalist spoke with)…
In terms of natural beauty, if I were a twisted profit-driven businessperson, I would illegally buy these lands in a heartbeat for tourism development. This is easily the most beautiful Atlantic beach I have ever been to. The water is like a jacuzzi. I literally bumped into a jellyfish while swimming in the sea. It was about softball size, but it was hard, and had 1-inch-long tentacles, not stingy at all, with tons of beautiful ethereal colors, lavender, periwinkle, rose, sea green. Later I saw a large iguana fall out of a tree next to the house I stayed in, as well as tons of small lizards and a cool tree frog in the bathroom. I also saw an empty land-turtle shell on the beach. I got to spend considerable time hanging out with kids, and they told me all bout the whales and dolphins you can see when you go out in boats.
Right now I´m in La Esperanza, staying at an extra-rural community center where they are holding a live-in screenprinting workshop til Sunday. So beautiful here, nice and refreshing weather, up in the mountains. There are 2 horses, a ton of cows and chickens, and 2 cats on the farm. I´m writing from a very awesome radio station called Guarra Jambala.
Still working on my audio segment about Marcha de las Putas, it will be ready on Monday to broadcast on olympiYEAH! on hollow earth radio.
Today: Honduras’ first-ever Slut Walk, in Spanish, that’s Marcha de las Putas!
We marched for about 2 hours to Parque Central. About 200 folks showed up, mainly female bodied, many LGBTQ, and allies. Chants included “it’s not how I look, it’s how you see me,” “no means no,” and “I dress how I want.”
The systemic repression of women and LGBTQ activists has been particularly strong since the coup of June 28, 2009. Gender activists are being threatened, harrassed, and assassinated for their political and social views and actions. Today the police and military did not appear on the scene until the rally at the end of the march at Parque Central, where they did not seem to be doing any harm other than imposing a patriarchical, authoritarian presence, and only reinforcing the reasons why we fight.
The march was organized by a few people who had heard about the march taking place in other Latin American countries such as Mexico, and they said, why shouldn’t we do this in our city? They created a facebook event and the march blossomed into the incredible success that it was.
One of my favorite points made at the rally after the march was that the coup would not have happened if it had not been for machismo.
A great day… I proceeded to eat gourmet home-made sushi at a neighbor’s house, drink canned beer, and learn a ton of dirty words in Spanish.
I’m in Honduras! The town is called Santa Rosa de Copan. I could not have imagined the terrain here, it feels like a dream. The hills are made of alternating bright reddish orange stone and limestone-looking rocks, and there are a lot of big rocks hanging out everywhere. I could imagine this being the site of The Pointless Forest and the Rock Man (from the classic film The Point!). I have encountered so many more pines that I would have expected thus far. In Guatemala, there are these amaaazing pines with giant tufts of long blue-green needles. Here they are a distinct olive green, and not too densely growing, and they shower the ground with needles the shade I would expect a on soft baby cow. This place reminds me of Montana for the hills, and of New Mexico for the colors.
Yesterday I was in El Salvador, unfortunately for only one day and one night. TOTALLY went to the Pacific ocean and boogeyboarded at Playa San Diego, just south of La Libertad on bus #80. San Diego is a superb town, it consists of several very long straight streets parallel to the beach, with mostly just residencies, schools, and small corner stores and street food vendors. The best part is that everywhere you look there is another person on a bike, many with bike trailers, and another cypress tree.
I’d really like to return to that beach again for the 5am just-after-high-tide shell hunts… hint: if you go, don’t leave anything unattended on the beach (duh) — not even shoes, cause mine were stolen! Either that or I had a blind spot.
I tried pupusas today for the first time… breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s a maize tortilla with a thin layer of beans and cheese packed inside. Ain’t gonna stop til I get enuff. I also noticed today, probably not for the first time, that the word “corazon,” which means heart, is used as a pet name, kind of like honey or sweetheart. The lovely pupusa maker called all her customers corazon… with that word, there’s no need to say sweet.
Hey, yesterday I completed my 3rd week of language school here in Guate.. this week I will be spending time at a body of water, most likely the pacific ocean near a turtle refuge in a black-sanded beach town called Hawaii, or at Lago Cuatepeque in El Salvador, or perhaps a magnificent golden beach near La Unión… My plan is to be in Tegucigalpa by Thursday.
My teacher this past week, Flor, is very awesome. She told me a tale of her aunt and uncle, who go to a church in which they summon spirits on Sundays and Thursdays. One time, about a month ago, her aunt became possessed and did not sleep, eat or drink water for 20 days. She said her name was Manuel, she hit her family members, she killed all her ducks and chickens, and generally destroyed everything in her path. She even threatened Flor with a knife, calling her fat and threatening to cut off her stomach. She tore away at her face and skin with her fingernails, pulled out chunks of her own hair, and wreaked general havoc. She went to a psychiatrist and was declared crazy.
At her church, they performed an exorcism and 5 out of 6 demons left her body. Manuel did not want to leave. Eventually, he made her drink a potion with water straight from a puddle in a cemetery, a ton of lemon juice, a bit of salt, and an unknown white liquid. She fell asleep and woke up 24 hours later, demonless and ladylike again — she fainted when she looked in the mirror.
So, Flor doesn´t think she´ll be going to her aunt n uncles house anytime soon, especially not with her infant.
Powerful stuff. Lots of supernatural accounts have been appearing all over since I´ve been here. I got a great interview with a 12yr old girl in an internet cafe about her take on extranormal activity. I´ll post it when it´s translated…!
my spanish teacher from last week, anny, is an incredible storyteller and writer. she writes stories about everyday life and adds a bit of fantasy to them as well. for instance, she writes about the experiences of capi (short for capitàn, or captain) a lady dog who lives here. the other lady dog is named buster, and the manly dog is named compa, short for compañero. all three are very loving large-haired people who sometimes accompany students at mealtimes, when we eat with our families in the neigboring communities.
last week, i visited Xela (the shorter, more common Mayan name for the city of Quetzaltenango) to meet up with some friends from NISGUA. our coordinators also joined us for a cup of ammmazingly rich hot chocolate, mine had a scoop of chocolate ice cream and some shots of espresso in it.
my house ma last week, juana, is a great cook. we ate carrot empanadas, pancakes, tortas de papa, tamales, and even these little hotcakes she made out of soy beans and diced veggies. every meal is eaten with tortillas, which are made of ground maize (when it´s ground and moistened, it is called masa) and quite a bit of crumbled limestone. so they´re rich with calcium!
when the coordinator of the school introduced me to my new house ma for this week, i almost cried upon seeing her home, for there beneath a long pink lacy curtain covering the entryway lay 2 week-old kittens sleeping one on top of the other. my house ma´s name is georgina, her husband is ariel, her daughter (15) is dina elizabet, and her son (9) is wilber. i recognized wilber immediately because i had met him the thursday prior, when he joined his grandma Roselia to teach an evening cooking class at our school. we learned how to make plàtanos rellenos, which are mashed up bananas (there is a particular stone device, a small stone platform and large cylindrical stone, that you put in the big sink and mash bananas with) with purèed beans infused with sugar wrapped inside, and then fried in a pan. nommy nommy nommy soft dessert!
when wilber and roselia got to the school, i was the only student there, and the electricity at the school was also down due to the intense thunderstorm we were experiencing. there´s a marimba in the main room of the schoolhouse, and i was just rocking out with a candle in the thunderstorm on the marimba when they showed up. wilber hung out and listened to me play while roselia got the kitchen set up. it was a really cool moment, just me and wilber chilling in a dark room with music for about a half hour. so when i got my new house assignment this morning, i was verry excited that my friend was there!
another thing about my new house is that most of the dining room is occupied by a giant wooden weaving loom! ariel, the dad of the house, used to make a living weaving traditional shorts, but then the economy crashed and now he is a farm worker, though he still weaves sometimes before and after work, especially when the electricity goes out.
this weekend, i joined a conference with students from the PLQ, the in-city branch of the Mountain School, which is where I am. we were a big group, 21! we traveled to Santiago Atitlan, on the lake, and met with a priest who told us of a father (Francis Rother) from Oklahoma who lived in the village for 20 years and started a lot of great projects like farming cooperatives, a health center and a radio station. He learned the indigenous Mayan language of the town, Tsu-Tu Jil, and was the only foreigner who has ever been accepted into the community; he received a Mayan name, Apla´s. He was assassinated in the church in 1981 by the armed forces for being a suspected communist. The town of Santiago Atitlan experienced severe repression between 1980 and 1990, wherein countless civilians were murdered, tortured, detained, harassed for being suspect of being allied with the guerrilla forces. People stopped going to work in the fields, they just stayed in their homes or went into hiding to avoid capture and interrogation. Most people did not speak Spanish at the time, so when a soldier would ask a farmer if he was taking that sack of corn to the guerrillas, he would sometimes say yes because he had no idea what was being asked of him. In that case, of course, the farmer would be tortured and often killed.
Our next conference was at La Voz de Atitlan, the radio station established by Padre Apla´s. We spoke with Diego and Juan about the importance of community radio as a form of education. Since this is an election year, the station interviews political candidates every Sunday. Their most popular programs are the Christian ones, which are aired twice daily. They also have local musicians come in to play, usually marimba. Radio Atitlan also has programs for children and teenagers, where they have kids come in to the station to sing or make shout-outs to their family and friends. 70% of the language on the radio is Tsu-Tu Jil, which is the native tongue of the majority of the inhabitants of Santiago. However, other programs also include educational messages to teach people how to speak Spanish. I believe that for these inhabitants, who are still facing intimidation from armed forces and police, learning Spanish could be a great resource.
Matt here! Jumping in to say that I just got off the phone with Caitlin on this wonderful Friday, after her second full week of language school, and she was stoked about her trip this weekend back to Lake Atitlan. Apparently, there will be 15-20 of them traveling to Santiago (supposedly a super cool, not so tourist-minded, town) for the weekend trip! She had a great Friday, starting it out with cake for breakfast, a good day/conversation with her weekly teacher on their last day together and also with her weekly host mother. She learned that kite flying is a local indigenous custom (spelled Papaletdes here), going back several hundred years and is thought of as a way to communicate with the ancestors & spirits in the sky. Caitlin shared her email address (see above) with the host mom and told her that she has always seen a future later down the road of kite-making (even though Caitlin admitted to having never built a kite in her adult life). ;P
I liked the story and was able to track down this related article in The Christan Science Monitor about a yearly kite festival in a town about 100 miles away from Caitlin. (click the images below to learn more about Mayan kite flying and Feria del Barrilete Gigante and if you want to see some AMAZING other kites just image search “Barrilete Gigante”):
(You can listen above) our follow this link below to download an audio segment I made last night… it is a wav file of 9.5 minutes. I basically say hey, this is tezcatlipoca (my dj name at hollow earth), and here are some things that I have experienced in Guatemala.
Right now I am in an internet cafe in Colomba, the nearest town to La Escuela de la Montaña. I have spanish language classes from 8am-noon, one-on-one with Tito, who is from Colomba. He is awesome at soccer and has been working at the school for 7 years, while taking university classes to get something like an equivalent to his masters in teaching. We (there are 8 of us this week) learn in little individual straw-roof classrooms on the school´s 2-acre property. I sleep in the school house and share a dorm room with a lady who graduated from Columbia in New York, though she´s from Oakland. I eat three meals a day with a family who live in a home down the street.
My house ma´s name is Ana, she has no last name. She´s a grandma and lives with her daughter, husband, and three grandchildren in a 2-room hut made of concrete and tin. The kids: Angelica, 12, Roni, 8, and Fabiola, 9 mos., although I thought the two biguns were 8 and 5 when I first saw them, they are mighty small. When they started talking I realized my mistake. Today I read them the Giving Tree in Spanish and we drew together. Tonight a lot of the kids from the neighboring communities are coming over for Noche Cultural to play games and hang out, but my family´s kids aren´t yet allowed. They say it´s because they´re too young, but other kids of 7 or 8 years go every week.
The community my family lives in is called Nuevo San Jose, and the way they arrived here is a crazy tale. They were all workers on a coffee farm not far from here. They were generally paid every 15 days. One week in 1993, the farm owner failed to show up to pay them. They assumed he would have to be responsible so they continued waiting for their pay and working every day, and on time, nonetheless (reporting to the representative who lived at the farm), without pay. A month went by, two months, three months, and eventually a year went by without receiving any pay at all for their work. At this point people, both children and adults, started to die of malnutrition. The workers knew nothing of labor struggles, so they did not know how to fight for their rights. They worked with various labor organizations until finally, in 2002, they reclaimed all of the money they were owed — but it took 9 years of continuing the fight. A catholic church gave them money to buy some land and build some shelters, but they still are mostly out of work. The way they ended up securing their money was by taking the representative of the farm owner hostage and threatening and intimidating him with machetes and sticks. This is a common story in Guatemala. And to think this is the time when Seattle´s coffee habit was taking shape… unbeknownst to many, intense violence and human rights abuses go into most coffee beans.
Community solidarity really shows itself in the tale of Nuevo San Jose in that the guy who told us the story, Abelino, who was the elected president of those who struggled for justice, was offered 5,000 quetzales (about $750) along with another leader of the community to quit the fight and leave the other 23 struggling families. He of course refused and instead, returned to the labor community and continued working to get everyone paid for the year they worked. There were another 25 families who were also involved but did not want to be involved in the labor dispute because they were afraid of violence against them or were family members of the finca owner. The unionists worked hard to get some corn, rice and beans delivered to the group of workers and shared it equally with those other families when they arrived. Towards the end of the struggle, those other 25 families were paid their year´s worth of wages and then immediately were sent off to work elsewhere, and were told not to tell the unionists what had happened. Abelino heard one of these people telling his wife all of these things, and went to the city to talk to a lawyer the next day, and that´s when the farm owner took him to Guatemala´s equivalent of KFC, told him to order whatever he wanted, and bribed him to abandon his community. Once again, stories like these are common here.
Soo here´s another thing: even when we buy fair trade or organic, those labels can cost farms about $1,000 a year. That´s a shit-ton of money for collective farmers here. It´s better to find coffee or chocolate from an ethically traded source, with as few middle-men as possible. It doesn´t have to be organic or fair-trade labeled to be actually organic or fair-trade. In fact it may be even better for the farmers if it´s not labeled as such.
Kayaking is so calming and it feels like a water nest. Here I am in my kayak in the lake, blogging on my waterproof laptop, jk. Actually it happened a few hours ago and there are these magpie esque beautiful brown birds that are all over the place. I was floating on Lago Atitlan right next to the volcano San Pedro. It just swoops down str8 into the lake. It has some similar qualities to Lake Quinault on the oly peninsula.
Today I kayaked for an hour and when I was pulled ashore, I met a señor named Ashuan who lived on Vashon Island on and off for a year total. He says areas around the Puget Sound remind him of the lake, with friendly people, volcanoes and green plants. Ashuan is awesome. He is an older Mayan man who toured the US with a speaking tour about Mayan culture, 2012, and how the impossible is now possible. He reaffirmed my belief that right now, we are undergoing great change, he says the end of the world is happening all around us, all the intense natural disasters that are mounting in frequency. But that we are entering a portal and a shift toward consciousness. He has never heard of Daniel Pinchbeck, by the way. He told me about how he can do remote telekinesis, like cleaning his house no matter how far away he is. Then he got into describing how he can evict ghosts from haunted houses from afar. He actually asked a malicious spirit to leave his friend´s house on Vashon Island while he was here in San Pedro.
All the women in his family are midwives and most of the men are shamans and healers. Ashuan says he is not a shaman, he is a speaker. His dad once saw a giraffe in the forest behind the volcano. Ashuan says this is a magical place and if you change the channel of your perception and view the magical world, anything is possible. He says two to three thousand inhabitants of the villages around the lake have seen lions behind the volcano.
Needless to say, we exchanged numbers and he´s going to take me on a hike to see the most magical places in the forest if I come back to San Pedro. RAD ENCOUNTER.
I also got 4 bootlegged CDs today from a guy named Hector, one is the latest reggaeton mix from Panama, another is marimba from 2 ladies in this very town, another is the music of Juan Luis Guerra (a guy who used to collaborate with Enrique Iglesias), and the final is called Super Rock Mix and it´s a rock n roll mashup. I´ll post audio when I get the chance…..
estamos moviendo. Eso es seguro. Siempre moviendo.
I just had a political conversation with two very interesting people at a hostel called La Iguana Perdida in Guatemala. One person is a former public accountant from Colorado who is currently the operator of a small NGO that facilitates starting indigenous women’s businesses. His local projects are currently as follows: chicken farm, school supplies store, and thrift store. His other project: helping women set up a business exporting jewelry to the US market…. anyways, he is a free trade supporter. I told him that the majority of the American public does NOT own stock in GE, and he told me I live in a bubble.
The other guy is from France and I agreed with his views on social responsibility and equality. At one point I had a hard time formulating a point and here is what it was: simply, competition at the highest level of monetary wealth is symbolic violence, that perpetuates and feeds on violence and misery in the streets. Free trade is not about peace. It is about profiting off of war. There you go.
Here is what I wrote from the patio when I didn’t have internet:
Estoy en Guatemala! The beautiful, the creative, the spirited Guatemala! At this moment I am gazing at Lago Atitlan, high in the mountains, colored with pastels and deep turquoise, scents of smoke and falafel cooking in the organic kitchen behind me, periwinkle orchidlike flowers dangling on vines from the roof. I’m at the hostel La Iguana Perdida (the lost iguana) in Santa Cruz, one of the smaller towns on the lake. I took 3 chicken buses to get here from Guatemala City – not exactly on my itinerary but it was the fastest way to go since the I barely missed the bus that goes directly to Panajachel (the most accessible town on the lake). If you’re going from Guatemala City to Panajachel, there are a few options – for the chicken buses, you can take the Rebuli line (go to Trebol terminal to catch the bus). It leaves every hour or hour and a half, so depending on when you get there, it may not be the best option. Another way to get there is by taking a bus to Encuentro – the guy hanging off the side of the bus will be yelling “QUICHE” (kee-chay) – then get off in Encuentro and catch a bus to Solola, then you will find a bus going down the hill to Panajachel. The first bus cost Q30, the second Q20, and the third Q7. To get to the towns around the lake you can catch a small boat that will cost you Q10, so Q67 (about $8.50) for a three-hour trip, yes great.
Guatmela City. Not as bad as I had been told, at all. People were friendly and respectful, nobody tried to rob me, in fact I really liked the atmosphere of my barrio (neighborhood) – in Zona 2 by Parque Central and Parque Morazan. Colorful homes, beautiful political graffiti art, and lots of establishments where I was able to find a disposable camera, a cell phone, and excellent used sandals. And oh! the street food. Several small round tortillas with beans, rice, guacamole, salsa, cabbage, and fried egg was my choice, extra greasy, extra nomnom. Lots of people also sell whole skinned fruits like mangoes and pineapple on sticks, like a popsicle. I stayed at the office of a nonprofit and visited with a friend, and also made some awesome new friends, including Tanya from western Ireland and Katharina from Wyoming! Shout-out!
This morning, after an unplanned and wonderful 10-hour sleep, I left for Panajachel. I took a taxi to the Trebol terminal, and along the way, we saw a man with 6 goats on the road. I remarked to the driver that I really love goat’s milk, and he suggested that we stop to get some, so we did! It was 5Q (about 40cents) for a cup of straight-from-the-udder goat’s milk, and the taxi driver paid for it. Best driver ever. Goats were pretty nice too. “Goat” in Spanish is “cabra” – kind of like capricorn. I dig it.
The birds are verrry loud and plentiful here by the lake. Tomorrow I’ll go kayaking and swimming, jet over to San Pedro la Laguna (obligatory international hippie dropout town) to get a small guitar or something.
At this point I recommend Qing Hao, a Chinese herb, for travelers who don’t want malaria or parasites and also don’t want to take the toxic malaria pills conventional doctors prescribe.
I can already feel my Spanish picking up like mad, so many points in this blog where I’ve wanted to start jetting it out en espanol. So excited to get a ton of new vocab and work on my verb tenses in school over these next few weeks.
I’ll be done language school on June 5. I plan to meet up with a few members of the Portland Central America Solidarity Committee in mid June to create an audio documentary about community radio in resistance. We plan to broadcast these audio segments and a documentary to as many radio stations as we can, internationally.